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Changes coming to Minnesota expungement law

Background CheckFor anyone with a criminal record, finding housing and a job is often the most challenging part of life after completion of the sentence. However, changes are on the way in Minnesota, and they may ease this burden and help individuals with criminal records work their way back into society.

Expungement Changes

Recently the Minnesota governor signed into law changes affecting how records are held and under what circumstances can they be expunged. This is in response to challenges for individuals with criminal records who find themselves unable to obtain housing or employment.

Specifically, the law closes a big gap in the earlier legislation that did not allow judges to seal certain types of records even when the convicted individual had completed his sentence and proved that he was deserving of a second chance.

What Can be Expunged?

This law specifically addresses full expungement in the following circumstances and in graduating time frames post-sentence completion, as appropriate:

  • Juvenile delinquency-related records can be expunged
  • Resolutions of the accused individual’s either through dismissal or acquittal can be expunged
  • If the case ended in a stay of adjudication or diversion, records can be expunged one year after the sentence is completed if the individual remains crime-free
  • If the case ended as a misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor conviction, even if the original charge was more serious, the records can be expunged two years after completion of the sentence if the individual remains crime-free
  • If the result of the case was a gross misdemeanor conviction, it can be expunged four years after sentence completion of the individual remains crime-free
  • If the case outcome was a low-level and non-violent felony conviction, records can be expunged five years after sentence completion of the individual remains crime-free

However, if the case resulted in a conviction, in order to have the expungement petition granted, the offender must be able to demonstrate to the court that he needs his records to be sealed, and that need must outweigh any related public safety concern.

Impact to Employers and Landlords

First, the law does remove liability for landlords and employers who hire or rent to individuals with criminal records. For employers, the new law requires them to expunge and delete employment screening records for qualified individuals. For landlords, any eviction-related records must also be expunged if the ultimate finding was in favor of the tenant.

These requirements should prevent future employers or landlords from using a back door method to uncover records that should have been expunged according to the new legislation.

Timing

This new legislation is set to go into effect as of January 1, 2015 for most offenses covered under the law. However, domestic violence-related convictions will not be available to be expunged until July 1, 2015.

Eligibility

Minnesota is taking steps to prepare for an increased demand in expungement requests because of the new law. If you think you may be eligible to have your records expunged, we recommend you consult an attorney to help verify your eligibility and navigate the process.

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